April 3, 2020 – Tzav

Shabbat Message from Rabbi Adam Bellows


This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Tzav, is found in Leviticus 6:1-8:36.

This Shabbat message feels different to me this week. Normally, my Shabbat message is merely a small piece of our interactions. Yet, now this is the main conduit through which I can teach Torah and through which we can maintain contact.

I do not mean to compare our current situation to World War II, but I cannot help but think of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats. Folks would sit around their radio, presumably next to a fire in the fireplace, and he would check in. While I do have a fireplace, it is gas-powered and I do not know how to work it properly. While I do not have a radio, I have email. So perhaps we can call this a Computerside Chat.

How are you doing? I hope there is a sincere answer because that means you understand the severity of our situation. How are you? Are you stressed? Are you lonely? Are you feeling overworked? Are you feeling underworked? Do you need a moment of silence? Do you need a virtual hug?

I would really love for you to reach out and tell me how you are doing. Yes, we as staff and clergy are actively reaching out to congregants to check in, but maybe we missed you. So how are you?

This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Tzav, reminds us that we must remain separate. God commands, “When a person touches anything unclean, be it human uncleanness or an unclean animal or any unclean creature . . . person shall be cut off from his kin” (Leviticus 7:21). Even thousands of years ago, we understood the importance of social-distancing when someone comes in contact with something unclean.

So, whether we like it or not, this is our situation. We must remain separate for an indefinite amount of time. Yet we can still check in with each other. We can call, Facetime or Skype one another and ask, “How are you doing?” And you know what? There is no correct response to that question. No one expects you to act or feel any particular way right now. Everyone’s living circumstances are different. So keep up with each other. Check in with that person you would not normally call. Only together will we come through this stronger than before.

This Shabbat is a great opportunity to see how social distancing can lend itself to really beautiful experiences. Our Artist-in-Residence, Rick Recht, will be providing a virtual Shabbat Alive! With his musicianship and spiritual leadership, one might even look at his virtual Shabbat experience as a Fireside or Computerside Chat. I hope you enjoy!

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